Focus On: Adam Moore & Family

Adam Moore is the CEO and co-founder of WHEELHOUSE Center for Health and Wellbeing along with his wife Dr. Tegan Moore, Executive Medical Director. Originally hailing from Brooklyn Heights, Adam’s father’s family is Caribbean and his mother’s is from the South. His mother, Madeliene Moore Burrell is a groundbreaking industrial designer, marketing executive and cultural leader, who was among the first Black women in her field while his father is the former head of psychiatry for Harlem Hospital. The Moores moved to Westport in 2017 with their children Addison, a rising sophomore at Staples High School and Mia who is a rising 7th grader at Bedford Middle School.

“We lived on the Upper East Side in Manhattan for over a decade where I owned and operated Moore Creative Living, a multi-disciplinary personal development company while my wife was the head of the Center of Excellence–a clinic run jointly by Bridgeport University Medical school and Dr. Peter D’Adamo who is best known for creating the blood type diet.

We founded WHEELHOUSE together in 2018. WHEELHOUSE is an integrative health center that focuses on multiple aspects of a patient’s health by employing a spectrum of unique professional perspectives. My wife’s focus is precision medicine based on genetic assessments. We also work with a nutritionist, another physician and an acupuncturist as well. My focus is in cognitive health and wellness based on a combination of different training and disciplines ranging from lifestyle management to neurolinguistics and hypnosis. As an ordained minister, I also help patients reflect upon their challenges from a larger perspective, asking them to examine themselves in relation to their health problem. We think about how these different health approaches fit together and create a treatment plan with respect to them. So, say you come to us with digestive issues, we think about disease tendencies, anxiety level, and your nutrition to create a multi-pronged treatment plan.

My role in the organization is split between helping our patients enhance their cognitive health and wellness and being the CEO — running the ship and developing a relationship with our community. I think of WHEELHOUSE as not just a business but as a movement.  We are thought leaders and change agents in area of medicine actively driving how we evolve individually and as a community.

Our role is to get people excited about having a positive relationship with their health. The way I describe it to our staff is that I want people to be as excited about their health as they are about their new iPhone. We want them to be excited for their next upgrade.

We were situated in a unique place when COVID hit because our approach is highly evidence-based. Everything we do is grounded by a scientific and clinical foundation but we also have access to a lot of traditional medicine because our Executive Medical Director is a naturopath.  We were already talking to health professionals from different areas of medical research which meant we were able to hit the ground running by providing patients access to different emerging technologies. We saw the COVID curve before it was coming and decided to situate ourselves first to create strategies for treating symptoms ranging along the physical to psychological continuum.  We have a genetic map for most of our patients, so we know their respiratory and gut weaknesses. We can say to some degree ‘If you get COVID here’s your unique primary risk factors and here’s how we’re going to keep that risk low.’ We’re trying to create strategies to mitigate the unknown: What would happen if you had to get to a hospital? How would symptoms play out if you became ill?

We also examine the impact of lifestyle and emotional factors in dealing with COVID: My role is in part to ask ‘What does this pandemic mean for you and how is that affecting your health?’ How is your anxiety about getting or spreading COVID impacting your sense of well-being?

The other side of that equation has been actively treating the patients in our practice who have been infected. We have patients all over the globe, but a lot in the Northeast corridor. New York started to get it first and we were able to give our patients strategies to treat physical symptoms as well as manage their mental health needs, and address their nutritional demands: How to calm down, how to get better sleep, how to maintain healthy eating habits, etc.

Of course, the unspoken conversation that is developing in all of this is about how COVID has hit African-American and Latino communities harder and I’ve gotten into some intriguing conversations with people in this community about that. Through this experience—and now the experience of the renewed civil rights movement –I’ve learned that a lot of the assumptions I came to Westport with were misplaced.

I believed that because the town is so geographically close to NY that there was spillover of a certain cultural openness and I didn’t expect quite the level of racism that we have encountered here. I remember trying to check out diversity organizations before we arrived here. I did find TEAM Westport but I also found articles about people repeatedly vandalizing the Black Lives Matter banner at the Unitarian church. Still, I told myself that being from New York and being a world traveler, I could handle what little racism Westport had to offer.

It’s been a bumpy ride culturally for us so far as residents of Westport. My family and I have been faced with frequent harassment from a neighbor who has repeatedly called the police and the fire marshal to our home claiming that I am physically menacing, that my wife is stealing flowers out of her garden and that our citronella candle is too strong and is aggravating her asthma. Each time the police and fire department come they agree that I am being harassed, and that it is an abuse of the system but that legally there is nothing that we can do to protect ourselves from it happening again. It’s truly disheartening to have my kids witness the weaponization of public resources as an instrument of targeted racism.

Racism is a regular occurrence everywhere but it’s a little more in your face in Westport. Not long after moving here, I went to the Chase ATM on the Post Road where a woman I perceived to be Caucasian and her rather tall teenage son were also approaching the machine. As I opened the door to follow them in, she held out her hand and said “I’d feel more comfortable if you waited outside”. I was so stunned I couldn’t even process it – so I just stood outside dumbfounded and later angry with myself for not course correcting her behavior.

Black people have been making adjustments to how we move in the world for the comfort of others and our personal safety for generations – it is and always has been an unfortunate necessity. My kids enjoy the Westport school system but have had their share of negatively biased experiences in school and they have naturally gravitated to friends of color – most are Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern (as there simply aren’t that many black students to be found). They have their little brown squad.  I don’t think in NYC they thought much about that, they just had a mixture of different friends.

My son and I routinely discuss his own personal experiences with racism at Staples including the letter by a classmate calling out bias at the school. We talk about the assertion that the African American students sit together at the same lunch table out of unity, that there will be metaphorical lunch tables throughout his life and he must learn to take his seat.  I remind him that ‘You have to feel comfortable with your people because when it comes down to it, that is who will have your back.’ With this in mind, our entire family has been more active in seeking out other people of color in this town.

Because I still have clients and patients in NYC, up until COVID hit I was continuing to see clients in the city a couple of days a week. As a city-kid at heart that gave me what I needed emotionally in terms of a ‘city-fix’. Not having that has been hard. On the flip side, I really love living in Westport more than I thought. I was really surprised to see how much I enjoy the ready access to nature and the beach, the rich historical foundation apparent in the colonial architecture, and its deep commitment to culture and the arts. It’s a beautiful town.

There is a pocket of transplants here who share a common experience and we’re enjoying getting to know each other including a family a few blocks away who share some very curious parallels. They are also from New York.  The father is a person of color and the mother is also white. We have daughters with the same name and in same class and sons the same age who look strikingly similar. Bizarrely, about a year after meeting them, we learned that the wife and I are both distant cousins related by John Wilkes Booth. She is a descendant of the Caucasian bloodline and I am a descendant of Booth’s enslaved women with whom he fathered many children.

It’s wonderful to witness the civil-rights awakening Westport is undergoing. We attended the downtown protest organized by TEAM Staples and after the protest happened, one of our friends who is Indian was adamant that the protest not stall at the stage of outcry and that it progresses into action. She has put together a group of parents and people via Zoom meetings interested in making change within the government and the school system. As we do this, I feel it’s important to remember something my mom always said: ‘Don’t get lost in the sweetness of your own honey pot’.  Meaning: don’t get so enamored by your own indignation that you lose sight of the goal. It’s important to initiate change, but let’s not reinvent the wheel. Westport lives in a bubble. If change is going to happen it will require stepping outside of that bubble to employ the resources, insights and leadership of communities and organizations that have been working on issues surrounding equality and social justice for decades. We must be willing to turn to neighboring communities like Bridgeport and Norwalk for guidance—or even turn inward to organizations like TEAM Westport – that are already confronting these issues with a running start.

The idea of the bubble exemplifies something I think is problematic: Often when people say we need to have diversity and change, they are focusing on the goals and not the outcomes. We need to really ask and understand: What is the point of diversity? Do we want to have diversity just for the sake of saying we are diverse or is there a deeper goal? The town prides itself on its open-mindedness but if that doesn’t translate into meaningful outcomes then we’ve missed the mark. We need to better understand what racism is, and the multiple manners in which it shows up – not just in society but in our thinking, words and behaviors. Westport needs to invest in cultural competency so it can understand the benefits of having a more diverse cultural community instead of looking at it as an obstacle we have to get past.

It’s really important that parents take an active role in shifting this perspective to the benefit of diversity. For every Black person or person of color who has died at the hands of a white male cop—that white male cop had a mommy and daddy who failed to teach him to value all lives. It’s incumbent on anyone who has a child to teach them cultural competency and to set clear expectations in their behavior in a way that demonstrates respect for others—to make sure they understand who they are in context to the larger community. I believe a lot of Westport parents are open to this notion, not just for its inherent moral value but because they see that their children are better equipped to navigate the world in which they live when they are empowered by multicultural understandings.

We are witnessing an unprecedented awakening as a nation and I am really proud of Westport for taking a leadership role in this and so thankful that we as a family are able to call Westport our home. This awakening is an uncomfortable process for many people on all sides of the issue, but in truth we will only find progress together when we are willing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable long enough to face our own issues. It’s in rubbing up against each other that ultimately, we all become more polished.

We are witnessing an unprecedented awakening as a nation


Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.


Bonnets & Sonnets: Reviews for June 25th

 

Music Review

Bardcore: Where have you been all my life?

Sara Krasne

There’s a new genre of music evolving on YouTube these days. It’s called Bardcore (or Medieval Style), and I am HERE for it! Bardcore is the soundtrack I didn’t know I needed as a historian and genealogist, I spend many days and nights steeped in the past, lost amongst the long (and sometimes not so long) dead trying to piece together their lives and connect them through the ages to the now.

Connected to both the present and the past as I am, hearing Progressive Rock (an occasional Hard Rock), Grunge, and modern Popular songs played out on harpsichord, lute-guitar, the bass notes thudding on hand drums and sometimes accompanied by the hammered dulcimer, melodies singing out on tin whistles makes perfect sense to me. Listening to this music, my inner band geek squeals in excitement and my nerdy heart soars.

The user names of the talented individuals who have pioneered this new and exciting genre may be lost in favor of their ‘real’ names one day, but for now I salute them. Graywyk, Cornelius Link, Algal the Bard, Constantine, Hildegard von Blingin’, Samus Ordicus and a host of others are joining the genre it seems daily now. Some of my favorites are those who have adapted the lyrics to a medieval (ish) style as well. Hildegard von Blingin’ has a cover of “Pumped up Kicks” by Foster the People that retains the catchy tune of the original song, but beseeches the “bully-rooks with your buskin boots” to “outrun my bow” of yew. And councils the rooks further to run “faster than mine arrow.” If you love music and are unapologetically nerdy, head over to YouTube, search “Bardcore” and fall into the past with a bit of anachronistic good humor. You won’t be sorry that you did! I’m off to the 1800s now, but I’m taking System of a Down’s “Toxicity” (Medieval version by Algal the Bard) with me!

YouTube Review

Townsends 

Ramin Ganeshram

If you are a fan of re-enactment sites and living history museums like Sturbridge Village or Colonial Williamsburg Foundation then you have likely seen the goods produced by Townsends (formerly Jas Townsend & Son) a manufacturer and retailer of reproduction 18th and early 19th Century clothing, cookware, and accessories. Not only do Townsend’s proprietors provide material for re-enactors, they walk the walk and are re-enactors themselves producing YouTube videos on everything from era-specific carpentry, camping and, my personal favorite, cooking. Billed as “a channel dedicated to exploring the 18th century lifestyle”, Townsends features proprietor Jonathan Townsend cooking recipes from both American and European cookbooks. Cooking both in a reproduction kitchen as well as campfire-side, Townsend prepares both long-gone recipes like Swanky & Gruit, Bison Soup and Corn & Eel Succotash along with those that are still familiar today like chocolate cream pie, fried chicken and pancakes. Clearly a skilled cook who enjoys the history of the dishes he prepares, the videos are both entertaining and educational. Lovers of the foodways of the Colonies and the Early Republic will enjoy this channel with can be found below.

https://www.youtube.com/user/jastownsendandson


Hold Still, My Dearest: Reviews for June 18th

 

TV Review: “Dead Still”

Sara Krasne

I will start by saying that this show is for mature audiences only as there are sexually explicit scenes as well as images of a graphic and sometimes gory nature. Set in Victorian-era Ireland, this show follows the exploits of photographer, Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley), along with his niece, Nancy Vickers (Eileen O’Higgins) and his assistant, former grave digger Conall Malloy (Kerr Logan). Mr. Blennerhasset is a memorial photographer, meaning he takes pictures of the recently dearly departed, usually alongside their very much alive family. This type of photography was popular with the wealthy and elite of the Victorian era who had a somewhat morbid fascination with death and art surrounding it. Seances to commune with the dead were also popular in that time period and occur in the show. During the course of their adventures, a police detective, Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare), catches wind of an illicit photograph ring which deals in photos of a risqué nature. As his investigations go deeper into this seedy world, he seeks the advice of the renowned Mr. Blennerhasset. 

Dead Still is almost equal parts murder mystery and mad-cap detective story with a healthy smattering of macabre wit and humor thrown in for good measure. If you aren’t good at listening to Irish accents, you may have trouble following some of the conversations, but I love the accents and the delightful Irish-ness of it all. Most of the show takes place in Dublin and the surrounding country estates where it was, in-fact, filmed. This was particularly delightful as true-to-the story location filming is unusual these days. In a May 2020 interview with The New York Post Actor Michael Smiley spoke about filming in a huge mansion which only had one occupant who lived in a handful of the 40 or so rooms in the house. The crew filmed amongst the old relics left in the upper floors because who needs props when you’ve got the real thing collecting dust and creating just the right atmosphere? If you like dark humor blending with a bit of the ridiculous, you’ll love this show. The costuming is fantastic and mostly period accurate (there are a few discrepancies, but it’s a great show, so I turned a blind eye) I have found myself waiting between episodes with giddy anticipation and re-watching the previous week before the new one becomes available—in order to be in the thick of the story when the next installment  drops. The show’s tagline is: When death is in the picture, mysteries are sure to develop. And I think that when those mysteries develop, so too does an addictive show. Dead Still is available to stream through AcornTV, which is both a stand-alone service as well as a channel available through Amazon Prime. 

Film Review: “The Favourite”

Nicole Carpenter

Set during the reign of Queen Anne, spanning the years 1702 to 1707, The Favourite is the comedic tale of two women vying for the close friendship—along with the perks—of the English monarch. While complete fiction from the perspective of period costume and historic events, the film weaves an entertaining narrative lead by three strong female actresses portraying three actual historic figures. Olivia Coleman won an academy award for her portrayal of Queen Anne as a childlike monarch controlled by her lover. While Coleman gave a masterful performance, the historical record shows us that, as a ruler, Anne was highly involved in matters of state.

The love triangle shown in the picture is also fiction—Anne by all accounts was devoted to her husband, and enjoyed his mutual affection and respect. Some events shown in the film are based on history such as the political shift from the Tories over the Whigs, as well as Anne’s stroke; but little else of historic fact shines through this humorous depiction of the early eighteenth century.

Viewers will enjoy the imaginative story woven by the 2018 film, not for the depiction of the past but for the fanciful narrative.


Focus On: Darcy Hicks

Darcy Hicks is a well-known figure throughout town—an activist and artist who moved here with her brother and mother, who is also an artist mom, in 1978. Darcy went to Hillspoint Elementary, Long Lots Junior High, and Staples High School. After leaving for college, grad school in Boston and a career in NYC, Darci moved back to Westport when she married her high school boyfriend, attorney Josh Koskoff. The couple have raised their three boys in town.  

“In my years in Westport, I have known so many good people who truly care about those less fortunate. But the bubble is real, and so is the desire, however subconscious, to stay inside of it. So, the words haven’t always turned to action. Humility is not America’s thing, and yet without humility we can’t change how we see things. However, lately I’m seeing the bubble in Westport get thinner, and people are listening better. This gives me hope. 

I want to be careful about belittling the effects of COVID in Westport because I know many people have been suffering the effects – physically, psychologically, and financially. But we are all so lucky. Just a few miles south and north of us, our neighbors are unable to socially distance because of congested living situations, because they cannot afford to stay home from work, and because they are often the essential workers we need to help us function. And many of them have lost their jobs as their struggling workplaces have shut down – so the students I work with in Bridgeport, for example, are simply hungry all the time. That’s the reality of COVID for so many. 

With respect to COVID, I’ve caught myself being less careful in the last week or so, especially as I feel the urgency of speaking out and participating in protests for Black Lives Matter. Also, we are social beings, and for many this has been either a lonely stretch of time or a claustrophobic family time. As the weather gets nice, of course, we all want to get out and see our friends or go to the beach and be among other people. But I am very worried that we have been impatient and in denial. The thing that really drives me crazy is the people who say they aren’t worried about getting it so they are willing to “take a risk.” They are ignoring the very real fact that many of us are asymptomatic carriers, which is like being armed with a weapon that has its own mind. We can be giving it to those who are susceptible to dying from it. It’s so important to try to think about other people right now. 

Westport has two mouths. Out of one, we preach tolerance and inclusiveness – and that is not nothing. And, we have walked the walk, a bit. For example, unlike so many other wealthy suburbs, we provide housing and services for the homeless, for lower-income families, and for people with disabilities. However, the other mouth is simply that: a mouth. Being mostly white and wealthy, we have this remarkable ability to rest on our laurels. We post the right sayings, go to the right protests, and then close the blinds on the rest of the world. It’s not enough. You don’t have to be a confederate flag-waving white nationalist to be part of the problem. In fact, resting on your words or your beliefs – without actually fighting for change – is the systemic racism which allows for what we see on our screens. I can sum it up with this anecdote: shortly after Hurricane Sandy devastated our shorelines, people in Westport were incredibly responsive. It was beautiful to see throngs of people at the beach, raking people’s houses and yards free of sand. A week later, I put the word out that there was a project community in Norwalk that had literally been underwater, and again, the response was so generous. I collected gift cards, furniture, and at Thanksgiving many people cooked extra turkeys and sides since the residents of the project lost their kitchens in the flood. But: I could not get a single person to come with me to deliver the items! I made eight trips because people were so generous – but they were also generous with excuses as to why they couldn’t join me to meet the people who lived there. Until the people who live in the comfort of towns like Westport meet people from towns like Bridgeport, they will not understand how similar we are, and how different our circumstances are. What they would have discovered is that many of these people who were so destitute were sharing the food we donated with the homeless that lived on the streets outside their project. They were as giving and as compassionate as we are, and I was sad this beauty was not seen by Westport residents. 

I think we are moving in the right direction. Every debate and every argument pushes us forward. Sometimes the smaller arguments online – the shaming, especially – can set us back. But we are a lively town, willing to share our thoughts. I’ve always loved that about Westport. This engagement is what moves the dial and allows for creative thinking. 

I think that most women, actually, have had to learn to be patient, hopeful, and hardworking in order to get through life’s challenges. So as a woman who has, like all women, dealt with sexism in school, in the workplace, and in social circles, I feel equipped for obstacles. On a personal level, I’ve experienced family tragedies and trauma. These times seemed insurmountable, yet here I am.  

My fear stems from the scapegoating and vilifying of particular groups, whether it’s by race or by uniform or by income. It is distracting us from finding solutions to gun violence, systemic racism, climate change, and the pandemic. Because one thing we must do now is VOTE. We MUST get Trump out of office or he will dismantle the few protections to our country and our planet we have left, which are fewer every day. Most urgently I think climate change needs to be addressed so we can all live long enough to fight the rest of the world’s ills. My hope is that we get every soul in this nation to vote in November so we can avoid the iceberg and focus on repair. 

I love this town. When you are a parent, you don’t see your child as someone that should be doing things for you. You see that child as someone you should be nurturing and helping to become a good, compassionate person. When they disappoint, you don’t abandon them. You correct them and admit that maybe you also need to correct yourself. I hope that people can see Westport – or anywhere they live – in this way. It’s not here for us… it is here BECAUSE of us. 


Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.


Focus On: Cat Graham, Westport Museum Associate

Catherine—Cat—Graham joined Westport Museum as an associate, after graduating from Staples High School in 2019. In addition to greeting visitors, she is learning the ropes of the museum field, and also uses her skills and talent as an artist to help exhibit installation and more.  

“My sense of the current-ness of history especially in more recent years has consumed many of my thoughts. But this current-ness isn’t new. Systematic oppression advances as fast as technology. A telephone is a telephone if it’s a rotary phone or a smartphone. But with my new exposure to local history and my town’s place in that history, historical events don’t feel so distant both geographically and chronologically. 

I have learned that the interpretation of historical events has almost always been done by the victors. Rarely are the stories of everyone ever told, giving people in the present an incomplete picture of the truth. This is especially important in this moment because one day we’ll look back on this moment from a historical perspective and I hope that people in the future will interpret the immense documentation of our current climate in a holistic way, and they may learn from the choices we are making right now.  

I want other people to know that while it feels very much like nothing has changed, in a lot of ways that’s true, progress has been made. In our exhibit Taking the Cure I realized how the narrative around mental illness has changed. While we still have a long way to go in our treatment and discussion around mental illness, there has been immense strides in the right directions. I joke rather morbidly sometimes that if I were alive a few decades ago a doctor may diagnose me with being a black girl and I’d never see the light of day again. But I find that before mental illness was a taboo topic, buried away instead of treated. Now, my friends and loved ones openly discuss therapy and medication and feel safe to do so. While it’s taken a long time to get where we are now, and there is still a long way to go, change can be made. Being surrounded by our past every day at work has made me realize that there is hope for our future. 

I’m a biracial girl so my experiences in life will always be safer and easier than that of a fully black person. I also am very light, my skin is more olive than brown. Because of this I am not “enough” to many people. To white people I’m not white enough to be white but I do not fit the picture of blackness they have painted in their minds. To black people I am not enough because I haven’t been hurt enough and to an extent that is true, my light skin is a shield in many ways.  I have never in my life had a black person teach me black history in school. Neither have many of my peers, so I can’t really blame them for what they think I should be.  

While I go home to a black mother who introduces me to black history, art, movies etc, my white peers don’t. Black issues and black history are almost a fiction. It’s too far back to be real and too far removed from them to be related to them. Oppression is part of the same world as poodle skirts and sock hops, because my white peers rarely interact with black people unless they are behind a checkout counter or cleaning their house. I was often the only black person in the room in my classrooms growing up. The students I sat beside only interacting with blackness when it’s convenient. They love rap music. They love full lips. They love a tan. They love thickness. They love the n word. They love black bodies and minds as long as they don’t have to live in them.  I can’t blame them for wanting me to be something else when they can wash blackness off in the shower and don’t have to risk being killed for it.  

 I think forcing our citizens to look our history in the eye to understand what the truth is, is important. The Museum’s exhibit Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport was an incredible step forward and I am so happy I was able to see it even before I worked there and can now appreciate the work that went into making an exhibit like that. I never learned about Angela Davis or Tulsa Oklahoma in school let alone the enslaved black people that were considered the property of the people my [high] school is named after. I sat at the front desk of the museum over the summer facing the mural of names [of enslaved and free people of color]. My name –Cat– was one of them. Museums like the one I work at are incredibly important. Not only because they document, protect, and tell historical stories like this one, but also because they make up the gaps in education about what happened. By focusing on everyone’s story, not just the stories of the victors and the oppressors, we are doing right by our citizens.” 

Museums … are incredibly important. Not only because they document, protect, and tell historical stories…but also because they make up the gaps in education about what happened.


Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.


Focus On: Jes Bengston, Regional Executive Chef, Terrain Café and Amis in Westport

Chef Jes Bengston has worked in Westport for the last four years at Terrain’s popular Café and downtown-Westport sister restaurant Amis Trattoria.  She lives in West Haven with her wife who is a hair stylist. The restaurants opened today (June 12, 2020) after complete closure during the COVID-19 lockdown period. 

“We have never opened a restaurant like this before and may never again. When you open a restaurant you either take over an existing restaurant with its staff or start a new place and build it up. Yet, here we are starting over with an established restaurant as if it were brand new. For example, we started the week with an empty kitchen that had to be stocked from scratch yet we have the same staff doing the same dishes we were doing before. This morning we got some jitters out of the way and brushed up on some rusty skills, figured out where stuff was since things had been moved around. 

We have a smaller staff now because we did have a couple of people who have skipped coming back because they just don’t feel safe—and that’s ok. We only need a smaller staff now because we are doing very limited service—ten outdoor tables only this week and then will begin limited indoor/outdoor service next week. The folks who are back are really happy to be here—everyone is eager to get back to life even if it’s a completely different kind of life.  

There are things we’ve had to learn or relearn. For example, the mask makes it really difficult to work both in the kitchen and on the outside patio for the servers. Everyone’s struggling a bit. We already do handwashing constantly and keeping a safe distance is an old trick. The store is outfitted with new high-grade air filters, great signage explaining safety procedures and PPE. There is a full protocol about what to do if an employee—or guest—feels sick or comes down with COVID. When people make reservations, they are advised of safety procedures and again when they come in and again on their menu. So, we hope everyone feels prepared. So, it’s feels like business as usual but with a twist—kind of like the first day of school. 

Working in restaurants makes you feel prepared for everything. In many ways we are re-inventing the wheel everyday – managing problems is what we do. It’s not unusual to figure something out on the fly. We live in organized chaos all the time—what do you do if you don’t get a food delivery? Or a cook is out? Or the electricity goes off? 

In some ways, I feel like I’m working backwards. For example, we normally try to make our food in 12 minutes—fast. People want to get in and out, they want to get out and pick up their kids, get back to work, go on with their lives. Now I’m telling staff to take some time–we are trying to make good food, with masks and we don’t know yet where anything [ingredient-wise] is. It’s a work in progress.  So, now we have set the expectations is you get good food, but we hope that people realize there are things we can’t control – like the weather for outside seating. My hope is that, after being inside for so long, we take our time and enjoy being out, enjoy being healthy, and having the means to enjoy a nice restaurant meal. 

During lockdown, I did think about the fact that people were learning to produce food at home at a higher level so they wouldn’t have to depend on chefs and restaurants.  But I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I myself have never been home so much as during the quarantine — my job has crazy hours. We all go to work to be paid to have a safe and great home to enjoy but we don’t seem to do it. But during quarantine, I saw a lot of people doing that. Maybe that’s why we are not yet seeing people are rushing around — because I think they learned it wasn’t that bad.  

I see the world opening its eyes and ears and a whole generation awakening. We currently have the opportunity to change the outcome of our future — to gain civil rights for people of color, change our government, rebuild our police forces. I see a movement happening, and our generation ready and willing to speak for justice and change.  

I see the world opening its eyes and ears…

Like a lot of places, I think Westport has a lot of work to do. My thought is that we all take charge in the areas we can to make a difference, permanently and with passion. It’s not enough to discuss for a moment or to chalk your driveway or donate money, we all have to do more. We need to be having open discussions and acceptance of our behavior in the past whether that behavior was intentional or not and just do better. I’m hoping to focus on people of color in the local farming community and bringing better jobs and wages and opportunity in the Restaurant business.  

We are now in a moment that is a great opportunity to start over—with respect to a lot of things: food service, race relations, the environment. I think food can be freedom, it can open doors. We all have a lot of work to do and it’s an exciting time to discuss all that has been previously swept under the rug.  


Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.


Watching Men in Hollywood: Reviews for June 11th


Focus On: Stafford Thomas

Lessons I Learned From This Pandemic 

For one, we know that this dreadful virus has put our routines and expectations for 2020 on hold.  Our priorities have been readjusted and aligned with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as the virus has taken so much away- a staggering loss of life we have not seen in our history in such a short period of time.  It caught us off guard and we were stunned by its brutal force while being forced into quarantine for as long as the government directed us. In the meantime, they readied tests, ventilators, PPEs and made seemingly daily legislative orders which were implemented with the aim of mitigating both the spread and impact of this virus.  We know and are actually experiencing our belief in real time- as each day we are closer to Covid-19 becoming a tragic bookmark in history when we say, “Remember in 2020 when….”  And while we will never be able to regain all that was taken from us, it seems that we are prepared to do whatever is needed to ensure that we are not impacted in the same way again.   In fact, as a nation, we’ve done a respectable job of doing this as the closest comparison of such a plague would be found in 1918.  Whereas, we have had a major protest regarding race relations and societal injustices just about every other year going back to 2010.  We seem to be far more efficient and effective at implementing lessons learned from a disease outbreak than those outbreaks of unrest based in societal injustices (and we’ve only created one of the two).  Lesson #1   

The outpouring of support for our healthcare workers, rightfully so, designating them as heroes and the constant flood of images projecting caring individuals and positive uplifting tweets is something you could not escape in the past 10 weeks.  This truly unique experience, well when I was growing up on St. Croix, everyone would shelter in place during a hurricane for days- without electricity, but other than that, I cannot think of another time in the past 44 years where every American had to do the same things at the same time, for anywhere near this length of time and for the same reason.  Other than the state and location of your dwelling, there was complete inclusion in how we had to behave on a day to day basis.  We were similarly situated in our existence and dare I say bonded by this.  The constant reminders and feelings of when this is over we will so cherish our time together and treat everyone with a high degree of respect and decorum warranted by our fellow man/woman/child.  Indeed.  Just to get out in the sun again or gather at a restaurant.  “Mom, if you get me the Nintendo/Playstation/iPhone, I’ll never ask for anything again”.  Ever.  Yep, that seemed to capture the mood of this country as “phases” were inserted into our lexicon.  Well, only days into our reopening we had plenty of quick and vivid reminders that the pandemic might have changed our lives during the past 10 weeks but some of our beliefs, feelings, and prejudices seemed to return as quickly as, well a reflex.  Almost like it never really left us at all.  In fact, what is endemic in our society will always eclipse a pandemic(again, we’re only responsible for creating one of the two).  Lesson #2 

We were distracted for a good part of this pandemic with the blame game of the origins of Covid-19 and the national and local critiques around levels of reactions/preparedness.  However; during this political football game, we heard little from actual chemists or biotech companies but we are all very confident in our belief that a vaccine will be developed sooner than it takes for most viruses.  Many would guess by this time next year for sure.  In fact, raise your hand if you would be shocked if we are forced into distance learning on March 11, 2025 due to Covid-19? 

Well, we did our part in “flattening the curve”, the summer weather will help out and even though a second wave is on the horizon, we will either have a vaccine or we can always quarantine for at least 8 weeks right?  We’ve basically done 10 and we know it’s temporary.  So it is possible that we could eradicate a virus, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a century,  that we have known for a mere four months within four years.  A virus- the explanation of its intricacies and functions is something  that is reserved for a select group of individuals who traffic in the upper levels of the medical and science fields for the most part,  but we are all somehow clear on what our collective action needs to be in order to “flatten the curve” and combat its spread.  Hmm.  Lesson #3 

Every single one of us knows what it is like to be made to feel less than by another person.  We all know how to find the identifying traits of people, to then attribute sameness as it’s easier to group them in that manner, and finally to attach with intent to harm or not but at least know the terms ascribed to a group of people that if acted on, would make them feel, well, less than.  In terms of race, that started here in 1619.  What do we do today to “flatten the curve” when it comes to race relations in our country?  It’s a problem that’s existed in our country for over four hundred years.  Well, we have to identify the basic actions and techniques we will all have to enact to flatten this curve.  Since we have all done our part recently to flatten the curve- a phrase we weren’t familiar with prior to March- and did so religiously whether we were symptomatic or asymptomatic, why are we choosing to instead come out of quarantine and immediately remind everyone that the insidious feelings associated with discrimination should be primed for a spike?  “Flattening the curve”, was a lesson in creating and retraining our brains by practicing methods to form new habits-well over 30 days-in order to cope with a dangerous situation.  A situation where you would not know simply by looking at someone whether or not they are infected.  But we did it.  For our part, when it comes to the treatment of people, wouldn’t making sure that you treat everyone with respect and not dance on the line of whether or not I could be offending them, be a way to flatten this curve?  That is erring on the side of caution or I should use the reinvigorated term of,  with an abundance of caution I will follow practices I have listened to, learned and heard so as to not place myself or anyone else in jeopardy.  During the pandemic, we did a lot of listening without judging and certainly without prejudging.  Well, we did at first, remember- “This is just the flu.”, oops. However, when you see the actions of people in extreme pain and justifiably angry but now coming together with a diversity in the protests we haven’t seen since the 60’s, I certainly don’t remember this representation during the turbulent 90’s, across this country, it gives us hope.  Hope is something that is at an all time high right now, in terms of the pandemic but at its nadir in terms of our views of justice and a peaceful coexistence as a nation.  Hmm.  Maybe we need to, come together regardless of background, listen to and hear one another and not judge- with some hope sprinkled in, you know, like we did for Covid.  Lesson #4         

No more lessons.  I am 44 years old.  I am a black man.  I’m actually fifty percent Italian but I learned very early on that to try and explain that to someone based on my appearance would take longer to do than writing this letter every time and it’s not worth it.  I am proud to identify as a black man so I’ve come to terms with that minor detail which is unique to our history.  But I do not know what to make of what I am seeing every night.  I cannot lecture you on what is happening or why or how anyone should feel.  The images that made me the most fearful-they were not the worst or most graphic and I am not attempting to rank each of the horrific images or stories we have borne witness to recently, regarding the tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.  You see, sadly I have seen horrific incidents very similar to these just about every year spanning decades.  However; what I have not seen and what was additionally upsetting to me was the March 26th  “Please, put your dog on a leash; – I’m going to call the police and tell them there is an African American man threatening my life”, incident in  Central Park; coupled with so many divisive and forceful comments being carelessly aired for consumption in a country that is severely injured and already divided.  Where does it stop?  It just seemed to be some next level act of aggression committed by a citizen in a somewhat casual manner and a great deal of talk about using force by our government officials, to which I felt powerless or perhaps unfamiliar with these vivid exhibits of power plays I guess is the best way to describe them, in my life experiences. It is okay to be confused, angry and afraid, all at once sometimes, and not know what to do. However; we cannot remain in this state; paralyzed or indifferent, hoping it will go away.  We do that, and we’ll be right back here again, claiming as I have heard many times, statements that racism ended once Obama was elected.  We’ve been there and here already folks and we must know at a minimum, at the very least, what not to do(do no harm), then what we can do to bring about change and ultimately what we need to do in order lead a group or community or even a nation out of this quagmire.  Kind of like what we are doing now as we try to diffuse this pandemic.   

You see, in my first year here at Staples, we had uncovered or more accurately, it was brought to my attention some areas that were in need of improvement.  Work that needed to be done by our school community.  We identified the work that needs to be done around including students of color but not limited to as other groups shared the common feeling of being disenfranchised. We were working on the roll out of our Diversity Month events when the pandemic hit.  Upon our return we will certainly be ready to address what we were getting started on.  Flattening the curve and working towards creating a healthy and safe environment for all of our students.  All of them.  Perhaps the lessons learned from our time away, is that we were forced to see- no distractions or sporting events, movies or shows- the need for all of us to take responsibility, to identify our individual bias, we all have them to then listen to what can hurt or harm and with an abundance of caution, choose to do no harm, flatten the curve or lead the way to make sure that all aspects of our school are free from injustices present at our level-the vaccine of sorts.  There is so much right with this country and there is even more right with Staples, but we need to get to a point where when an issue is revealed that can negatively impact us as a people, we feel the immediate need to collectively take action to eradicate the issue.  Kind of like what ……. 

One final statement, I hope we have all had the time to reflect on life a bit lately and realize that life is precious.  It is also hard enough on its own simply because there is so much that is out of our control, as we don’t know when the next virus will appear for example.  But what about that which is in our control.  Let’s take control and make up for the time we lost with each other in a fashion where we go to school each day with a goal in mind.  Kind of like what the teams of scientists around the world do every day in pursuit of a common goal which will make all of our lives better.   

 
With a heavy heart and a ton of hope,  

 

Stafford W. Thomas, Jr. JD 

Principal 


Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.


Rowan & Romans: Reviews for June 5th


Two True Stories *Sort of: Reviews for May 28th